Every recipe has a story and today’s Vanilla Cardamom Cheesecake (with Macadamia crumble) has quite a few.
To start with, I didn’t like cheesecake much till I got to attend this year’s In One Voice Jewish festival and experienced the cheesecake competition. That’s when I realized that I have been eating bad cheesecakes all this while and the real deal is delicious.
Those who follow me on Facebook or Instagram would have seen the pictures from this event, especially the one where I got to have a small chat with Alice Zaslavsky, popularly known as ‘Alice in Frames’ (Masterchef fame). Alice was the judge at the cheesecake competition which saw a delicious array of sweet and savoury cheesecakes. Once the cheesecakes were judged, slices were sold to the public to raise money for Caring Mums, a charity program run by National Council of Jewish Women of Australia (Vic).
I decided to try out the winner’s cheesecake and much to my surprise found that it was nothing like the ones I had tasted before that. This one was smooth, creamy with a delicious balance of flavours and that was the moment I decided that I am going to bake one myself.
But that plan didn’t work out for a long time till now which brings us to the second story.
Just like thousands around the globe, I am a huge huge fan of Masterchef Australia. I have not missed a single episode since its inception 8 years ago. For me, this show is not about reality TV, gourmet food, complex recipes, outstanding chefs, creative homecooks or even the amazing hosts. I mean, it’s all of that but for me; it’s all about the basics. It’s all about the Master classes and learning the basics and fundamentals of cooking, be it an ingredient, technique, dish or cuisine. The knowledge that I have acquired from this show over the years has been immense.
And much to my surprise, one of the Masterclasses by Matt Preston turns out to be cheesecake. For me, this was a sign from the culinary God to try my hand at making a cheesecake. As always Matt made it super simple and taught us the secret to a deliciously creamy and simple vanilla cheesecake.
I, ofcourse, had to fiddle with the recipe and make it my own but the recipe is quite similar to his. For that hint of spice, I added crushed green cardamoms to the cream cheese and for the base, I used a mix of macadamias and digestive biscuit crumble for that nutty buttery and toasty flavour.
So, here’s presenting my Vanilla Cardamom Cheesecake with Macadamia crumble.
If it was summer, I would have garnished with some fresh berries but for the chilling weather here, all I could think of was some sort of a caramel sauce. But that would have made it very heavy and I was looking for a light dessert. So I kept it plain and paired it with a glass of sparkling Pinot instead.
If you notice the photographs, you will see a crack on the surface. Well, that’s nothing to do with the recipe but rather my clumsiness while moving the cheesecake to a platter. I had two choices; to photograph the cake with that crack showing or to make another one from scratch just for the photographs. I chose the former, because beautiful and delicious food does not have to look perfect and this is no commercial photography assignment. So enjoy the cake guys, with the imperfections.
(Psst….this has nothing to do with the recipe but this year, I also got to attend the shooting of one of the Masterchef episodes. For those who are following the show, it was the carnival one where I got to meet Nigella Lawson. Yes!)
- 175gms digestive biscuits
- 175gms raw macadamias
- 60gms caster sugar
- 60gms melted unsalted butter
Cream cheese filling:
- 750gms cream cheese (room temperature)
- ½ tsp powdered green cardamom seeds
- 230gms caster sugar
- A good pinch of salt
- 4 eggs
- 2 ½ tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 300ml double cream
- 23cm spring form cake tin
- Aluminium foil
- Roasting tray (ensure that the cake tin fits in snugly)
For the crumb base:
- Preheat the oven to 175°C.
- Line the cake tin with baking paper (bottom and sides). I first coat the base and sides with a thin layer of butter and then place the baking paper so that it sticks properly. Take 3-4 sheets of aluminium foil and double wrap the outside of the cake tin like a jacket of sorts. (This is to prevent water from getting in and also add to the bain marie effect while baking the cheesecake).
- Blitz the biscuits and macadamias in a processor to a fine crumb and then add the caster sugar. Blitz again to combine and then add the melted butter. Blitz for a few more seconds to combine.
- Transfer this crumble to the cake tin and spread evenly. Using a spoon, pat down tightly especially evening out at the edges. (If you prefer a thinner base, use lesser quantity of the crumb).
- Bake this for 10 minutes; remove and set aside to cool well.
For the cheesecake filling:
- Put on the kettle water for hot water to pour in the roasting tray.
- To make the cream cheese filling, add the softened cream cheese to a cake mixer and beat for a couple of minutes until smooth and creamy.
- Then add the caster sugar and beat well till the sugar has combined and dissolved well.
- Add one egg at a time, making sure each has dissolved well before adding the next one.
- Reduce the speed of the mixer and add the lemon juice, vanilla essence, cardamom powder and salt. Beat till combined and add the double cream. Beat again just for a few seconds till the cream has combined well.
- Pour into the cake tin with the cooled crumb base. Tap to even the surface and place the tin inside the roasting tray.
- Place the roasting tray inside the oven and carefully pour the hot water into the tray to atleast half the height of the cake tin (around 2 cm).
- Bake for 65 minutes or till golden and cooked through at 175°C.
- Once baked, turn off the oven and allow the cake to cook down for at least 1 hour inside the oven (with the door closed).
- Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing from the cake tin.